U.S. citizens enjoy many rights that are not available to permanent residents (green card holders) such as the ability to bring relatives to the U.S., giving citizenship to their children and voting. Below, are 5 important reasons why a green card holder should consider applying for U.S. citizenship.

Petition for Relatives to Come to the U.S.

Both U.S. citizens and green card holders can petition for relatives to legally immigrate to the U.S. But the relatives of U.S. citizens receive priority. This means the relative of a U.S. citizen is able to get a visa or a green card much faster than a green card holder’s relative.

Also, U.S. citizens can petition for their husband, wife, parents, children, brothers and sisters to get a green card. Green card holders can only petition for their husband or wife and children.

Get Citizenship for Children

Children of U.S. citizens can automatically receive U.S. citizenship if they are younger than 18 years old and live in the U.S. Children of citizens living outside the U.S. or children who are over age 18 are also eligible for citizenship either through “derived citizenship” or through the naturalization process.

Travel Freely

It might be difficult for green card holders to re-enter the U.S. or become U.S. citizens if they’ve been outside of the U.S. for more than a year. U.S. citizens can stay or live in another country for as long as they like.

Traveling with a U.S. passport can have many benefits for U.S. citizens. For example, when U.S. citizens travel abroad, they can seek help from U.S. embassies and consulates if they are a victim of a crime or need help during emergencies or disasters.

Freedom from Deportation

U.S. citizens can never be deported from the country. But green card holders can be deported for things such as drug convictions, lying on immigration applications, marriage fraud and domestic violence.

Employment Opportunities

The federal government has many job opportunities available, but only U.S. citizens are allowed to work at most federal jobs.

Voting

Green card holders can’t vote in federal elections. Only citizens can vote for the president, U.S. senators and U.S. representatives. And most states only allow U.S. citizens to vote in state and local elections.

How to Become a U.S. Citizen

Green card holders can become U.S. citizens by going through a process called naturalization. In most cases, you must be at least 18 years old and have been a green card holder for at least five years (three years for people who are married to a U.S. citizen) to be eligible for naturalization. You must also have lived in the same U.S. state for three months before you apply to naturalize. And you must have lived in the U.S. for more than 30 months out of the past five years. However, these requirements vary depending on your circumstance. For example, people who have a marriage-based green card only to have had a green card for three years before they are eligible.

To apply for naturalization, file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. After you submit your form and other required documents, you will have an interview with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer and take an English and civics exam. The English exam tests your ability to read, write and speak basic English. The civics exam tests your understanding of the U.S. government and U.S. history.

After your application is approved, you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. This is a promise to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws and renounce your loyalty to any other country. Once you’ve been sworn in, you can enjoy life as a U.S. citizen and all the benefits that come with it!

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